India’s total number of coronavirus cases crosses 9 million

A health worker collects samples to test for COVID-19 in New Delhi, India, on Nov. 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
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Updated 20 November 2020

India’s total number of coronavirus cases crosses 9 million

  • India has the second highest number of cases and deaths from COVID-19, behind leader US

NEW DELHI: India’s coronavirus cases passed nine million on Friday, as the world’s second-worst-hit country saw hospitals in the capital New Delhi under pressure and graveyards fill up.
India has now registered more than 132,000 deaths, according to the latest official figures, which are widely seen as understating the true scale of the pandemic.
The total number of infections in India is second only to the tally in the United States, which has recorded 11.6 million cases and more than 250,000 deaths.
India, the world’s second-most populous nation, has seen a drop in daily cases over the past month but it is still registering about 45,000 new infections on average every day.
New Delhi, facing the dual scourge of winter pollution and coronavirus, has seen infections soar past half a million with a record rise in daily cases.
On Thursday, the megacity’s government quadrupled fines for not wearing a mask in an effort to get a grip on the outbreak.
At one of Delhi’s largest cemeteries, burial space is fast running out, grave-digger Mohammed Shamim told AFP.
“Initially when the virus broke (out), I thought I’ll bury 100-200 people and it’ll be done. But the current situation is beyond my wildest thoughts,” Shamim said.
“I only have space left for about 50-60 burials. Then what? I have no idea.”

India imposed a stringent lockdown in March but restrictions have been gradually eased as the government seeks to reboot the economy after the loss of millions of jobs.
Experts say this has helped spread the disease, as has a general reluctance to wear masks and maintain physical distancing.
The western city of Ahmedabad, home to six million people, late Thursday announced an indefinite night curfew after an uptick in cases.
“The increase in numbers of cases is a concern, primarily because it is driven by people not following the basic protocol of corona-appropriate behavior,” said Anand Krishnan, a community medicine professor at Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
Hemant Shewade, a Bangalore-based community medicine expert, said it was likely cases outside major towns and cities were not being taken into account in the official numbers.
“My guess is that it is spreading slowly and silently in rural areas,” Shewade told AFP.
In Delhi, the spectre of the virus wreaking havoc has come back to haunt its 20 million residents, as families scramble to arrange hospital beds.
Over 90 percent of intensive care beds with ventilators were occupied as on Thursday, a government mobile app showed.
“My father’s oxygen saturation level dipped to 35 percent suddenly and we rushed to the nearby hospital but there were no beds available,” Delhi resident Rajeev Nigam told AFP.
“We ran all night from one hospital to another but it was the same story everywhere,” he said, blaming the Delhi government for being “unprepared” and “callous” in its approach.
Distraught families were making fervent pleas on social media, tagging Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for help in securing beds.
Under pressure to control the new wave, Kejriwal Thursday announced the addition of 1,400 intensive care beds.
Jeevendra Srivastava, an advertising professional, said Delhi was paying the price for overcrowding during the ongoing festive season.
“It’s shocking how a few people still are not taking this deadly virus seriously,” said Srivastava, 47.
“People are still going to crowded places without masks. It’s because of this irresponsible behavior that now almost every second house has a case of the virus.”


Lockerbie bomber appeal starts in Scotland

A total of 270 people from 21 countries were killed — 243 passengers, 16 crew, and 11 people on the ground — in what remains Britain's deadliest terrorist attack. (File/AFP)
Updated 55 min 34 sec ago

Lockerbie bomber appeal starts in Scotland

  • Convicted bomber Al-Megrahi's family claim the US and UK governments have “lived a monumental lie for 31 years.”
  • It has been widely claimed that the bombing was ordered by Iran and carried out by a Syrian-based Palestinian group

GLASGOW: The family of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Mohmet Al-Megrahi on Tuesday began a posthumous appeal in Scotland hoping to overturn the former Libyan intelligence officer’s conviction for downing a Pan Am flight in 1988, killing 270 people.
Lawyer Claire Mitchell told five judges in Edinburgh that “no reasonable jury, properly directed, could have returned the verdict that it did.”
The case was referred to Scotland’s highest criminal court by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) in March on grounds a possible miscarriage of justice may have occurred.
The SCCRC said there were grounds an “unreasonable verdict” was returned in that it could not be proved Megrahi bought the suitcase containing the bomb that was loaded onto the flight.
It also highlighted “non-disclosure” of evidence to Megrahi’s defense team.
Megrahi is the only person convicted of bombing Pan Flight 103, which was blown up over the Scottish town of Lockerbie as it flew from London to New York on December 21, 1988.
Three Scottish judges sitting at a special court in the Netherlands jailed him for life in 2001, recommending he serve at least 27 years.
He was released from a Scottish prison on health grounds in 2009 and returned to Libya, where he maintained his innocence until his death in 2012.
A total of 270 people from 21 countries were killed, including 11 people on the ground, in what remains Britain’s worst terrorist attack.
But Megrahi’s family maintain there are widespread doubts about his conviction.
A successful appeal would vindicate their belief the US and UK governments had “lived a monumental lie for 31 years” by imprisoning an innocent man and punishing Libya’s people, they said.
Lawyer Aamer Anwar said before the appeal began that he had spoken to Megrahi’s son, Ali, who was eight years old when his father stood trial.
“The Megrahis regard their father as the 271st victim of Lockerbie,” he said.
“Finally there is hope that we are coming to the end of a very long journey in nearly 32 years of their struggle for truth and justice.”
Megrahi’s first appeal was dismissed in 2002 and a second abandoned after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Five judges including Scotland’s most senior jurist, Lord Justice General Colin Sutherland, are hearing the case, which is due to last until Friday with a ruling at a later date.
The family’s legal team are taking part remotely from Glasgow.


It has been widely claimed that the bombing was ordered by Iran and carried out by a Syrian-based Palestinian group in retaliation for a US Navy strike on an Iranian Airbus six months earlier in which 290 people died.
Late last Friday, the High Court upheld a secrecy order signed in August by UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab to withhold intelligence documents related to the case on grounds of national security.
The documents are thought to allege a Jordanian intelligence agent within the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) built the bomb.
The PFLP-GC has been designated a terrorist group by several countries, including Britain and the United States.
Lawyers acting for the Megrahi family believe the documents are central to their appeal, which is backed by some of the victims’ families.
They also said they would disclose “significant material about the role of individuals, nations and their politicians” at the end of the appeal.
“There can never be a time limit on justice or the truth emerging,” said Anwar.
In 2008, then-foreign secretary David Miliband also refused to release the papers before Megrahi’s second appeal.